Māori Select Committee hearing Iwi on controversial Waitara Lands Bill

By Kelvin McDonald

A controversial land bill widely opposed by Māori in Taranaki is in front of the Māori Affairs Select Committee today at a public hearing at Waitara’s Ōwae Marae.

Te Ātiawa’s post-settlement body Te Kotahitanga o Te Ātiawa and Waitara hapū Manukorihi and Otaraua are amongst several key stakeholders opposing the New Plymouth District Council (Waitara Lands) Bill.

The proposed legislation will enable Waitara leaseholders to buy the land their homes are on and see the return of about 76 hectares of mostly reserve land to Te Ātiawa.

The land was confiscated from Waitara hapū in 1865 but was not included in Te Ātiawa’s 2014 Deed of Settlement because the iwi declined to buy back the land for $23 million as part of its settlement deal.

Instead, it sought to resolve the issue through a non-binding agreement with the New Plymouth District Council that would see a local bill presented to Parliament to address the matter.

Although Te Ātiawa initially supported the bill it’s since chosen to oppose it.

The iwi says the final bill is not in the best interests of Te Ātiawa. It believes significantly more Waitara land should be returned and that the bill should provide solutions that have a less polarising impact on the local community. It also says it would like to see the bill recognise the truth about the Waitara land confiscation.

It is the second public hearing on the matter. The first was held in New Plymouth last November and was attended by about 100 people.

The select committee is due to report back to Parliament in March. 

Native Affairs - Selling off Waitara, Tuesday 20 September 2016